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By Gina Roberts-Grey

Denise Richards’ job is to have perfect hair, flawless make-up, and dewy skin. Your basic “perfect” image. But the 39-year-old actor, model, and single mom says she’s anything but perfect, and that suits her just fine.

 

“I define beauty by what’s on the inside, not the outside. It isn’t just being aesthetically perfect. Beauty isn’t on the outside or in the form of perfect skin, hair, or nose. I think a beautiful spirit, being selfless, or an outpouring of compassion is beautiful. That’s what I strive for and am teaching my girls.”  She practices what she preaches, too.

The paparazzi has snapped her picture plenty of times when she’s out and about with her children and isn’t wearing make-up or designer couture. “I look dumpy, and that’s OK. It’s me at that moment.”

“If someone wants to judge me based on my physical appearance, that’s fine, but there’s more to me than whatever my hair looks like,” says the former Bond Girl and celebrity cast member of Dancing With the Stars Season 8, and star of Denise Richards: It’s Complicated.

Striking a Balance

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Richards’ childhood was drastically different from that of her daughters’ (with ex-husband, Charlie Sheen) Sam, 6, and Lola, 5. “My mom didn’t get spray tans and have people come to the house to do her hair and make-up for work,” she says. “Having those things in my life makes keeping my girls grounded a challenge. I’m always telling them beauty is on the inside, and then they see me be made up to look a certain way.”

To avoid sending mixed parenting signals, Richards continually stresses to her daughters that fancy hair and make-up are “just part of Mommy’s job.” “Those things are just one part of my life and not what defines me.”

Above all, Richards says the best way to drive that point home is by setting an emotionally and mentally healthy example for her daughters by avoiding superwoman expectations. “I’ve found I can’t do it all, and that’s OK. It’s hard to be perfect at everything all the time and if I try, I’ll burn out.”

She strikes a harmonious chord by accepting that while occasionally work takes her away from her family, she sometimes has to turn down a great job to go to a school event for her daughters.  And, she even pencils in some “me” time now and then, too.

“I recently had a girls’ weekend with some friends for the first time in a long time while my dad stayed with my daughters,” she says. At first doing something for herself felt foreign to Richards, but the trip taught her that carving out time to recharge her own batteries makes her a better mom. “My children are my priority, but I learned it’s good for moms to do little things for themselves, too.”

Comfortable in Her Own Skin

For any woman approaching 40, there are few who could say they’ve escaped heartache. But rarely does a woman mend a broken heart or forge on through a painful divorce and bitter custody battle with millions watching and reading scathing and often untrue scrutiny in the tabloids.

“It’s tough being the target of tabloids and gossip, and I’ve definitely had a lot of that. There was a time that so much was written that I had to shut myself off,” says Richards.  “I’d be lying if I said the gossip didn’t bother me – it does. Constantly hearing bad things that aren’t true about your life affects your self-esteem.”

To keep her spirits – and her self-esteem – up, Richards says she has accepted who she is – emotional baggage, the subject of tabloid fodder, the occasional bed head in photos and all. “I tell my girls it’s OK to be nervous or uncomfortable, but they should never be afraid to try new things and they shouldn’t worry about what other people might say. They should always be true to their hearts and beliefs.”

Living by that mantra, Richards has reinvented her career and personal life. Having gone through what she calls “a very difficult time” after losing her family life, husband, and career, she says there was nowhere to go but up.  “I went through a few tough years and realized I had two choices: quit, or keep going. I chose to not quit.” One of the ways Richards keeps going is penning an autobiography due out in the Summer of 2011. “I want to encourage other women to pursue their dreams no matter what obstacles life throws in their way.”

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